I shared the following article and it was recently published in the Dearborn County Register (Laweranceburg, Indiana) on July 23, 2013, and in the Rising Sun Recorder (Rising Sun, Indiana) on July 24, 2013.
Understanding the Drug epidemic!
In light of the recent death of young actor Cory Monteith, best known for his role on Glee, I feel this is an important time to bring up the issue of drug use and its consequences. I want to express my condolences at the loss of this young life, and want to say that this article is not meant to monopolize on his death but to show that he had fallen into an epidemic that has swept across our nation, and is affecting young people everywhere.
As an Alcohol and Drug counselor for over 20 years, I’m shocked at the number of things parents, grandparents, brother/sisters, teachers, pastors, youth pastors/workers don’t know about the drug epidemic that is sweeping through our community, schools, families, and sadly even churches. I’m becoming more and more convinced that it is so important that we educate those that come in contact with people.
There remains a great debate of what is the real cause of addiction, is it totally physical, psychological, genetic, environmental, or nurturing? Having worked with thousands of individuals with a many different addictions, including alcoholism, marijuana, cocaine, heroin, and even prescription drugs, I have found that addictions do not care who you are.
There are clear warning signs that we need to be aware of in regards to those struggling with an addiction. As professionals we look at five basic factors (you can use the same factors to help you determine if a friend or loved one is addicted or developing an addiction).
• The Physical: Fatigue, repeated health complaints, red and glazed eyes, sudden weight loss, and a lasting cough
• Emotional: Personality change, sudden mood changes, irritability, irresponsible behavior, low self-esteem, poor judgment, depression, and a general lack of interest.
• Family: starting arguments, breaking rules, or withdrawing from the family.
• Value System: Decreased interest, negative attitude, drop in grades, many absences, truancy, and discipline problems. Spending time with new friends who are less interested in standard home and school activities, problems and changes to less conventional styles in dress and music.
• Legal: Individual begins having a problem with the legal system, weed tickets, underage consumption, and the progress to other crimes including selling, possession, and even murder (accidental or intentional)
The question is often asked why and I have found some key reasons by individual’s use, and as with anything there is no easy answer. However, we have found some reasons that persist when talking to individuals about why and how they started to use.
• Curiosity: they want to experience new things (too bad they want to experience drugs).
• Rebellion: Using drugs is rebellious and it’s illegal and forbidden.
• Peer Pressure: They want to fit in with groups, especially those where drugs are involved.
• Experimentation: They don't realize that their actions today can lead to very bad consequences tomorrow.
• Feelings: Some teenagers tell themselves that they can control anything, that they can control the use of drugs, but many fails and turn to addiction.
• Forgetfulness: Teenagers turn to drugs to escape their problem with the environment he or she lives in.
• Psychiatric: Teenagers with mental illness like depression or a personality disorder are more prone to abuse drugs.
• Weight loss: Some drugs do suppress appetite, but addiction usually pushes the addict to place little importance on health.
• False Hope: Some teenagers who lose hope turn to drugs. Drugs are used as a substitute for love. Teenagers who don't feel any love from someone to turn to drugs and feel love by themselves.
Helping individuals coping with addictions is often not easy. The first problem is that people with an addiction don’t see the problem and are convinced that everything is going well. I have found a few things that as family, friends, teachers, pastors, and etc we can do:
• Show Love. It is not easy standing for what is right but showing them that you love them, but will not compromise and give them permission to continue.
• Don’t remove the legal obstacles, as difficult as it is I’m convinced that there needs to be consequences for individual actions.
• Don’t justify their actions, “it is not bad, it was only a little pot, or a few drinks” that is giving them permission to do more.